Memo for a Saner World
Penguin, $24.95 pb, 281 pp
Bob Brown tells us the worst: ‘Half of the planet’s forest and woodlands are already gone’; every year, forest areas twice the size of Tasmania vanish from the map. At the same time, ‘There is a thin green line round the world’ – more than seventy Green parties contend for votes everywhere from Scotland to Mexico, Mongolia to Kenya. Jacques Chirac is trying to change the French constitution in favour of the environment; Les Verts have been doing pretty well in the European elections. Labor lassoes Peter Garrett. Even John Howard, while giving much aid and comfort to the fossil fuel industries, tries to sound as though he really supports renewable resources.
Senator Brown would say that’s all so much greenwash, his word for pro-environmental rhetoric unmatched by substance. He whirls us through real statistics: for the destruction of timber that has taken centuries to grow, Tasmanians now get about one per cent of the gain to the Japanese paper-millers: $1000 per tonne. The woodchip export industry dominates; there is little yield now of sawn timber or veneer. Brown takes us to Farmhouse Creek, the Bay of Fires and the Styx Valley – the imperilled Valley of the Giants, the home of the world’s tallest hardwoods, now ‘being slaughtered’ by immensely powerful bulldozers and chainsaws ‘at the greatest rate in history, for the lowest return in history, for the fewest jobs in history’. This ‘massive sell-out’ (Brown’s term) was legalised by the Regional Forest Agreement, which John Howard signed in 1997.